By Sasha Christian
At the recent 2013 IWWF Wakeboard World Championships held in Busan, Korea from August 28 to September 1, my goal was to have a clean stand-up pass to boost my confidence. As I had just returned from injury, placing wasn’t the most important. All I wanted out of the competition was to do my best and nail every trick I had been been practicing prior to the competition.
Since I was exposed to the competitive world in 2004, I have learnt that it is not always easy. Competitions are always tricky. I train so hard for them, putting in time, effort and money for those few minutes on the water that determines my worth. Months of blood, sweat and tears culminate in that moment where I either stick it or I don’t.
However, I fell on tricks I didn’t expect to crash on at the World Championships. During the quarter-finals, my first pass was decent. With my toned down run, I landed two inverts decently clean and was pleased.
As the boat turned around to enter the second pass, I was smiling. I opened up my second pass with an Air Raley, my favorite and best trick. I can vividly remember feeling great in the air and thinking to myself, “Well, this is good”. But that feeling didn’t last very long as I unexpectedly smacked the water head first on the landing. So much for best trick. I got back up slightly shaken by the fall. One trick later, I was back in the water after failing to land the Backroll to Revert.
During the last nine years, I’ve celebrated success and lamented failure. There have been times when I’ve performed well, and times when I haven’t. And when I didn’t perform to expectation, the loss seemed overwhelming because of the effort I felt I put in. I kept dwelling on the all the hours of training I’d put in to prepare for the competition which showed for nothing during my pass. It was tiring and I often returned from competitions doubting my abilities as a wakeboarder.
As the Last Chance Qualifiers (LCQ) were on the same day, I tried my best to stay positive. But with the image – and physical reminder – of my falls in the quarter-finals, it was difficult to do so and I just ended up just being extremely nervous. I knew what I had to do but I started to doubt every trick I had.
Before my run, I kept telling myself, “Just make it back to the starting dock”. Unfortunately, I didn’t. In fact, I was pretty far off. I fell on a Toeside Backroll on the first pass and ended my run early in the second pass due to another wipeout on the Backroll to Revert. I eventually finished 11th.
It was very upsetting because I had hoped that the first competition after my injury would help me get back my confidence. Instead, it left me lower than before.
Right after that episode, I started to fear the next competition I had to attend. Wakefest Singapore was on the next weekend and I was worried about my performance and if I would fall on the same tricks as I did at the World Championships.
And that’s when I started to question it – how do I recover from a bad competition? How do I tell myself that it’s okay and that next time will be better?
The answer only came a day after when my teammate, Guy Tanaka, took an early fall in his semi-final pass which caused him a spot in the final, demolishing his initial aim of winning the category. We all felt disappointed for him because he did not lack ability. However, Guy, though reasonably upset, said: “It’s okay, there’s Wakefest.”
“What are you aiming for?” I asked him.
He didn’t flinch at the fact that he fell and missed the final at the World Championships. He didn’t let that get the best of him. In fact, he got up and focused on the next competition.
That’s when I realized – never feel defeated.
I never took into account how much bad competitions usually affected me. Thoughts like, “What’s the point! I trained so hard for this and still did badly”, or “I’ve spent all this time and money for nothing”, come in defeat. I would let the situation leave me feeling low and demoralised. I would lose confidence and belief. As a person and as a wakeboarder, self-confidence and belief is so vital and I don’t ever want anyone or anything to claim that from me.
With a new outlook thanks to a 14-year-old boy, I didn’t let myself crumble because of one competition. When I acknowledged that, the recovery part came much easier because I gained strength from knowing it wasn’t over and because I still had a chance to fight back. When I got home from Korea, my mind was refreshed and relaxed. I was mentally ready to put on my board and practice for the next event.
It’s interesting how nine years on from my first international competition, I’m still learning how to deal with the aftermath of a bad run. But the way I see it, it helps me grow as an athlete and as a person.
P.S. Guy Tanaka won the Men’s Open category in the Wakefest Singapore the following weekend, and I finally had the stand-up pass I had been practicing for and placed second in the Women’s Open category. 🙂